Some artists may never become household names, might not have a very deep catalog or even all that much variation in their musical approach, but when you hear their records they invariably make you happy.

That 98% of them seem to come from New Orleans is surely a coincidence, right?

Nah, probably not…


Down And Out In New Orleans
If the goal of making records is to turn a profit then Archibald’s scant discography might make sense. Then again considering his first release was a national hit with huge influence and his second was a local hit, maybe Imperial Records dropped the ball on him after all.

Then again some guys just don’t have any luck and Leon Gross seemed to have been under a bad sign, taken his first steps underneath a ladder while a family of black cats scurried back and forth in front of him.

As Stack-A-Lee was breaking across the nation in 1950 Archie was due to go on the road to promote it but his ulcers acted up and he had to bow out. Whether touring would’ve boosted his sales any is debatable, but it definitely knocked him further down Imperial’s artist pecking order – just as her refusal to tour killed Jewel King’s career at the same time as the company focused on those who were more reliable.

Crescent City Bounce was one of the cuts left over from Archibald’s sessions with Dave Bartholomew, held back for a year and then relegated to Imperial’s budget subsidiary line, Colony, showing just how far he’d fallen.

Getting the precise date on when this came out is probably impossible since they obviously weren’t promoting it and with so few releases on this imprint there would be huge gaps between singles making it even harder to get so much as a reasonably accurate ballpark figure. But since we’ve just made the turn from August to September 1951, why not kick it off with an unimportant, but reasonably infectious instrumental that seems to celebrate rock’s birthplace as we reach the music’s official fourth birthday this month.


Just Another Saturday Night
In the right setting a song like this would lend an ideal touch. A dimly lit club on Decatur Street… maybe a house party in the Ninth Ward… or something being played off-screen in a gritty black and white movie set down by the New Orleans docks, or in a pool hall right before all sorts of bad broke loose.

Then there’d be enough action going on around you to allow its musical spirit to permeate the atmosphere which is what it’s suited for. Background music to add distinctive character to a colorful scene.

But as a record where the music is designed to draw your full attention Crescent City Bounce is much more easy to overlook, even though all of its parts fit nicely and it’s hard not to get swayed by the easy-going groove they cut.

Archibald’s dexterity on the keys is established early on, the left hand bass line lulling you into a trance while his right hand starts off with a funky rhythm pattern before hammering away more emphatically to get a rise out of you.

The alto sax that comes in next is appropriately whimsical to start with before it locks into a simple riff that rises and falls with admirable precision, bringing things to the edge of squeals and honking blasts without crossing that line.

Archie returns for more work as a fingersmith, his hesitation technique during this section keeping your interest before he closes things out with a quirky little coda that brings a smile to your face, wrapping it up in a compact two and a half minutes, a drastic reduction of the kind of thing he probably played in clubs for ten or fifteen minutes on end as the relaxed musical charm swept over the room.

It’s hardly the most complex arrangement, nor does it attempt to establish a very memorable melody and there’s absolutely no effort to have any of the musicians try and impress you with their technical abilities, but as far as locking in from start to finish with an engaging workout, this gets the job done well enough.


Painting Pictures You Can Never See
There’s always a tricky balancing act when it comes to music between coming up with songs that make for perfect records and making music that is more appealing when removed from the confines of sterile wax.

In many ways the guys like Archibald who’d earned a living playing for tips around town were never particularly suited for the recording studio, even if at times they managed quite nicely when they had the right song and a good arranger in Dave Bartholomew to mold the material in ways that fit the needs of a three minute single.

This was not one that did that quite so easily… through no fault of its own. Though fine for what it is, an instrumental B-side, Crescent City Bounce is more alluring for what it is only able to faintly suggest, that of an all night gathering where the booze is flowing, the people are in a good mood, there’s plenty of dancing and romancing, maybe some fighting but no grudges held, and come morning nothing left but some discarded bottles and rapidly fading memories of a night that blends in with a hundred and one others just like it.

It’s a transient song for a time and place that exists in every vibrant culture even if the era changes and with it so too does the music that serves as the backdrop.

Since we’re unable to revisit the early 1950’s scene in New Orleans for ourselves, and since the vocal records of that vintage are mostly far too well known and thus have picked up images drawn from our own listening experiences during the intervening years, it’s records like this which give us just a brief glimpse into the lost world.

But since we weren’t there to fill in the rest of the details for ourselves what we’re left with are just vague impressions… intriguing and warmly inviting, but ultimately out of reach all the same. Just like Archibald himself.


(Visit the Artist page of Archibald for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)